I thought I’d get personal with this essay. I know many freelance writers are out there hanging on tightly to that roller coaster ride. The ups are incredible. Seeing your published byline is a real high. However, the downs, in the form of rejection, give you that same sinking feeling the roller coaster delivers on the downward trajectory.
I’ve been on this rocky ride for 35 years now. I’ve had great, satisfying success and crushing disappointment. Sometimes, I’ve experienced both with the same project.
I co-authored the book with Jim Knittweis. Jim’s father had succumbed to Alzheimer’s. After his father’s passing, Jim wanted to find a way to help others that were in his position as a caregiver. He combined his knowledge of psychology and gerontology with his personal experience to conduct ten years of research. He asked if I’d be willing to help him turn that mountain of research into a caregiver’s guide. The result was a book we wrote in an easy-to-follow, Q & A form. We were both proud of what we had accomplished.
After a year of write, write, write, followed by edit, edit, edit, we began the treacherous search for a publisher willing to take a chance on first-time authors (despite the fact that I had many years of published work and Jim had the academic credentials). We finally found one! It was a one-person, small publishing house willing to take a chance on our manuscript and turn it into an actual book!
The first time I held a copy of the book in my hands was magical. Yes, it was like that first glimpse of your baby after waiting so long for its arrival.
The publisher did her best to market the book with a limited budget. Jim and I did most of that work ourselves. Fortunately, I had public relations experience. We received glowing reviews from newspapers, magazines, and medical journals, but we never received the widespread publicity needed to push real book sales to the very people in need of such a book.
ALZHEIMER SOLUTIONS was published in 2002. After a few years, we began having difficulty with our publisher. Her strategies didn’t always make sense to us. Something was wrong, but we didn’t know what that was yet.
Life is full of irony – and not always in a good way. We learned that our publisher had developed Alzheimer’s! Her publishing house would be closing down. We were crushed.
We requested the rights back to our book, which were graciously granted. The book is still listed on Amazon and is available through a group of independent book sellers. However, Jim and I receive no royalties on those sales. But we are glad that the book is still available to those who need it.
It would be easy to sulk about that experience, but I don’t. Many positive things came out of my time as a non-fiction author. Most importantly, I learned that I could write a book, especially one that was entirely outside my personal realm of experience.
Also, I conquered my fear of public speaking. I returned to my college alma mater to address a class of nursing students. That felt great! Jim and I were invited as guest speakers at an Alzheimer conference on Cape Cod, which was exciting for us. We met many wonderful caregivers at our Meet the Author gatherings. They were so anxious to have a guide for what is a monumental task, and they were eager to talk with Jim about his own time as a primary caregiver. I gained tremendous respect for Alzheimer caregivers.
An unexpected gift from that experience is that I published a story in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Find Your Happiness, titled “Never Say Never.” That has become my philosophy for the writing life.
So, if you are a freelance writer, jump on that roller coaster. It’s worth the bumpy ride!
Fun Facts About Writing: (Source: http://www.yellowwallpaperwriters.com/ways-writers-write/)
John Steinbeck (1902-1968) wrote with a lead pencil. He went through as many as 60 a day. The edges of hexagonal pencils hurt his fingers, so he used round ones.
While Margaret Drabble (1939 to present) was writing “The Needle’s Eye” she didn’t buy any new clothes because she didn’t feel her character, Rose, would buy any. “I was incredibly shabby by the end of the book,” she said.
Evelyn Waugh (1903-1966) burned his first unpublished novel, “The Temple at Thatch,” after a friend said he did not like it. He also tried to drown himself, but returned to shore when stung by jellyfish.
(photo of Roller Coaster Ride courtesy of firstname.lastname@example.org)